The “Perfect Strangers” Apartment BuildingMay 15th, 2012 | By Lindsay | Category: TV Locations
A few weeks ago, while perusing fave book Marilyn Monroe Dyed Here: More Locations of America’s Pop Culture Landmarks by Chris Epting (which was gifted to me by fellow stalker Lavonna – thanks, Lavonna! ), I came across a blurb about the supposed Chicago, Illinois-area apartment building where Balki Bartokomous (Bronson Pinchot) and “Cousin Larry” Appleton (Mark Linn-Baker) lived in the 1986 television series Perfect Strangers. As it turns out, the apartment building is not located in the Windy City at all, but right here in Downtown Los Angeles. I immediately became intrigued with the place, not because it is in L.A., nor because I was a huge fan of the series as a child, but because in the blurb Epting had stated that while the top three floors of the property had since been torn down, the bottom level remained intact and still looked much as it did on the show, which absolutely flabbergasted me! While a building being demolished in Los Angeles is, sadly, an all-too-common occurrence, only certain floors being demolished was something completely foreign to this stalker. I did some further research on the subject, though, and discovered that it is apparently a semi-common practice in L.A. when repairing buildings that suffer from earthquake damage. So incredibly odd! Deciding I just had to see the place for myself, I immediately added it to my To-Stalk list and dragged the Grim Cheaper right on out there a few days later.
In real life, the Perfect Strangers building was known as the Santa Rita Hotel and it consisted of four stories, as you can see below. Thankfully, despite the fact that the top three floors are now missing, the bottom level does still have some semi-recognizable elements from what appeared onscreen. The shape and layout of the fictional Ritz Discount store, where the cousins worked on the show, remains largely as it was during the filming, as do the protruding lip and grey line that run the length of the building.
Standing there, looking at the structure, I was absolutely perplexed that it used to stand at four stories tall. I still cannot fathom how in the heck the top levels were knocked down without damaging the bottom floor in the process. But that is why I am a stalker and not an architect. Amazingly enough, even though it appeared to be quite beautiful, I could not find any information whatsoever online about the building, its history, or its partial demolition. If I had to guess, though, I would say that the edifice was damaged during the Northridge Earthquake in 1994 and was demolished at some point shortly thereafter. But, again, that is just a guess. You can check out a 1939’s-era photograph of the Santa Rita Hotel on the USC Libraries website here. And you can check out a great write-up on the location by a Perfect Strangers aficionado named John Corbett here.
Thanks to another of John’s write-ups, I learned that the Santa Rita Hotel was only used as Larry and Balki’s apartment building during Seasons 1 and 2. For Seasons 3 through 6 a different, but similar-looking structure, located at 326-34 West Dickens Avenue/2100-10 North Clark Street in Lincoln Park, Chicago, was used. A screen capture of that building is pictured below.
As John also pointed out in his post, oddly enough, in the nighttime establishing shots of the building a sign reading “Caldwell Hotel” is visible. I am fairly certain, though, that that sign was just a prop, as was the case with the “Ritz Discount” sign.
Because Perfect Strangers was a sit-com that was shot in front of a live studio audience, only the exterior of the Santa Rita Hotel was used in the filming. The interior of Larry and Balki’s apartment was just a set that existed inside of a soundstage at Lorimar (now Sony) Studios.
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Stalk It: The Perfect Strangers apartment building is located at 1100 South Main Street in Downtown Los Angeles.